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    -ESSAY: The Managers: What Strat-O-Matic Meant to Its Creator, Its Fans, and Baseball (Pete Croatto, 7/06/16, Vice)
Other board games had simulated baseball, but Strat-O-Matic was indisputably the best. The randomness of three dice shot some of baseball's chaos into it; pitchers determining the outcome reflected how the sport actually works; real stats from all the players brought it down to earth.

Richman's creation brought baseball's essence into your house. The game's leisurely pace invites other pleasures, leaving plenty of time to drift into managerial wonder. Strat-O-Matic "played to that most basic of baseball fans' instincts, which is to say, 'I can do a better job than the people who are running my team," said the editor and writer Daniel Okrent, the inventor of fantasy baseball. "I think that's the kind of subliminal motivation."

Like any baseball game, Strat-O-Matic features two teams. Each player, batters and pitchers alike, is represented by a card with a table listing the raft of possible outcomes commensurate with his abilities, from Home Run to Ground Out Into As Many Outs As Possible. You roll three dice to get players from here to there. The things a player does most often in real life—strikeout, homer, whatever—will happen most often in the game, because those outcomes, based on the previous year's stats, are pegged to the most common dice combinations.

People are still playing Strat-O-Matic 55 years later, for the same reasons they always have—it's a great game. "I've brought a lot of happiness and a lot of enjoyment to a lot of people, and that's very important to me," Richman said.

Talk to some of those people, for whom Strat-O-Matic was both an escape and a transcendent entertainment, and the memories emerge clear and bright after years packed in storage. For a couple of summers, before girls and jobs barged in, the board game was a staple for Norm Schrager; growing up in Yonkers, New York. He would head over to his friend's house to play for hours in the sunroom, with the Yankees providing visual and audio ambience. A teenage Dan Patrick faked an illness so he could stay home from school to celebrate the arrival of the game's updated player cards. "At the age, you know, kids are trying to look through Playboys and we're looking through Strat-O-Matic cards," the former SportsCenter and current radio host said.

It was all about enjoyment, according to Patrick, who engaged in battles with colleague Gary Miller when the pair worked at CNN and, later, at ESPN. They played constantly—at Atlanta Braves games, in bars, wherever. Patrick recalled one expletive-laden contest concluded with the two not speaking for 48 hours.

Every once in awhile, I get furious with my boys for the number of hours they spend on Xbox. But then I recall the time we spent on such archaic games as Stratomatic, Electric Football & Monday Night Talking Football and calm down. I can only imagine the days and weeks we'd have consumed with better gameplay.

In fact, I kept meaning to try out a sports simulator. All of the Brits, including commentators, journalists and players are mad for Football Manager, but that seemed a bridge too far. then I read a series of uniformly rave reviews this Spring for Out of the Park Baseball.

The company was kind enough to provide a test copy and I even had a project in mind : I thought the Arizona Diamondbacks were loaded with talent at the Major League and high minor league level and that any idiot could run the team better than Tony LaRussa and Dave Stewart. I decided I'd try to run the team for a year--162 simulated games--and see if I couldn't improve on their performance.

The first thing to be said about the game is that it is a totally consuming and immersive experience. It was recommended that you just dive in, so I did...into the deep end. At times I got lost and had to back out and I never did figure out how to maximize all the tools that are available. But I was having so much fun it hardly mattered.

Not only do you get to set your roster, make trades, claim waiver players, etc. as the GM, but as the manager you can set line-ups, pull pitchers, pinch hit, etc. Your scouting staff gives you reports for the next series. Other teams make trade offers. Your owner even sends you messages about how you're doing. [I confess to ignoring mine when he said to add another Gold Glove caliber player.]

As the games played out we had some of the same big problems the real Dbacks did--chiefly some under-performance by Paul Goldschidt--.273 23 74 15. On the other hand, a guy who I anticipated good things from in Rotisserie--Phil Gosselin--and then watched never play, got over 600 abs with my squad and went .256 8 72 15. And whereas the real team went 69-93, mine went 74-88. There was even a ten game winning streak that got us to .500 in August!

Even better though were the acquisitions I got to make. To what was already a reasonably good club, I added : Trevor Bauer, Zach Wheeler, Hector Neris and Alex Bregman. And I think we can get James Paxton and more this off season for David Peralta, with Socrates Brito ready to plug right in to the OF. The only major piece I gave up was Shelby Miller, anticipating correctly that he'd disappoint.

I expect the game to get me through the baseball-less Winter and look forward to trying out some classic match-ups. You can basically use players/teams from all of baseball history. Time to see if my beloved 1969 Mets were a complete fluke or not...

But now for the best part...for the duration of the World Series the game is available for just $10. It's well worth the while even at full price and certain to entertain.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A+)

  

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Sports (Baseball)
Out of the Park Baseball 17 Links:

    -GAME SITE: Out of the Park Baseball
    -GAME at Amazon
    -ESSAY: La Russa's Diamondbacks are a mess (Jeff Gordon, 7/11/16, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
    -ESSAY: Arizona Diamondbacks ponder replacing La Russa, Stewart after just 2 years (Bob Nightengale, 8/22/16, USA TODAY Sports)
    -ESSAY: ESPN’s Keith Law: Diamondbacks’ ‘front office is a laughingstock’ (KEVIN ZIMMERMAN, August 18, 2016, Arizona Sports)
    -ESSAY: Looking back at the 2016 Diamondbacks, everything was terrible, even the uniforms (Dayn Perry, Sep 15, 2016, CBS Sports)
    -ESSAY: Diamondbacks' instability stirs potential candidates' skepticism (Nick Piecoro , 10/04/16, azcentral sports)
    -ESSAY: The Managers: What Strat-O-Matic Meant to Its Creator, Its Fans, and Baseball (Pete Croatto, 7/06/16, Vice)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVE: Out of the Park Baseball 17 (MetaCritic)
    -REVIEW: of OOTP 17 (Bryan Wiedey, Sporting News)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Michael Bauman, Knuckleball)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Jake Bridges, The Fantasy Report)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 ((Brad Bortone, The Spitter)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Pasta Padre)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Russell Archey, Gaming Nexus)
    -REVIEW: of ))TPB 17 (The Snake Pit)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (An 8 bit mind in an 8 Gigabyte world)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Matt Wilhelm, GameGrin)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Matthew Pollesell, Gaming Age)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Patrick Rost, Gaming Trend)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Jon, Dark Station)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Unstoppable Gamer)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Dominick DiFucci, Mets Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (GameRankings)
    -REVIEW: of OOTPB 17 (Yahoo Sports)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVE: Out of the Park Baseball 15 (Metacritic)
    -REVIEW: of OOTP 16 (Jeffrey L. Wilson, PC Magazine)
    -REVIEW: of OOTP 11 (Brett Todd, GameSpot)

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